A Brief History of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy history

I can never do justice to 6,000 years of history in one page... but here is a taste.

My fellow line 1s (who crave the research) this is for you, because you know I've been down that rabbit hole and found it so fascinating!

Ancient history and natural remedies are two topics that fascinate me. I have jumped into the bottomless hole of online and book research, fact finding and even real life investigating overseas at these ancient sites. I have a 1/3 profile, which means I love to investigate and give me a real-life adventure any day!

I can never give justice to the 6000 years of science, medical use and rich history of plant magic across the world on this page. I do however hope that if it sparks an interest in you, that you might be inspired to dive a little deeper yourself.

Let's go back to 4500BC

Essential oils and plant remedies have played an important role in many cultures around the world for thousands of years. From the surviving artefacts, you can see that it was apparent to most ancient races that each essence (plant) had a specific purpose and effect. Across the globe, cultures used essential oils for ritual, healing purposes, perfume, cosmetics and medicines. 

In Ancient Egypt, the dead were rubbed with cedarwood oil which has a preservation effect during mummification. The same applies to preserving ancient papyrus scrolls. It is possible to read recipes for salves, pastes and perfumes from this era which were written on papyrus and clay tablets! The Temple of Horus at Edfu, Egypt, holds a special fascination as it houses one of the best known 'perfume laboratories.' The hieroglyphics on the walls depict recipes for ointments and perfumes used in Ancient Egypt. One of the most famous essential oil users must be the Egyptian queen Cleopatra.

Cleopatra essential oils







A history in medicine

Curing human ailments and alleviating human suffering is almost as old as humanity itself. From the earliest days of mankind, our ancestors have taken notes from the natural world around them to make use of plants as healing agents. 

The first prescription ever recorded was for frankincense! It was etched onto a clay tablet in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) dated around 2100BC.

The Ancient Egyptians also recorded prescriptions (salves, poultices and essential oils) onto papyrus scrolls. There are around 2000 prescriptions for myrrh and frankincense preserved today and dating back to 1500BC. 

The Ebers Papyrus is an Egyptian medical papyrus of herbal knowledge dating to 1500BC. It is a 20 meters long scroll and among the oldest known medical works, containing 700 formulas and remedies.

Egypt papyrus

The King of all oils

You may have heard frankincense being called 'The king of all oils.' I was told by my mentor, 'If in doubt, use Frankincense!' This oil has been used and recorded across many countries and has weaved its way into our knowing from the tomb of King Tut to the manger in the Bible. Frankincense has always been a precious commodity and was traded on the Arabian Peninsula for thousands of years.

Today there are people all over the world using essential oils to optimise their health, regulate mood, address health concerns, make their home smell fantastic or to create homemade natural products.

 "By using essential oils we are simply coming to a remembering of things many people, from many cultures, have used for thousands of years"

Amanda Sugden